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Search tags: gmb-Dystopian
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review 2018-09-17 19:47
Parable of the Sower / Octavia Butler
Parable of the Sower - Octavia E. Butler

In 2025, with the world descending into madness and anarchy, one woman begins a fateful journey toward a better future

Lauren Olamina and her family live in one of the only safe neighborhoods remaining on the outskirts of Los Angeles. Behind the walls of their defended enclave, Lauren’s father, a preacher, and a handful of other citizens try to salvage what remains of a culture that has been destroyed by drugs, disease, war, and chronic water shortages. While her father tries to lead people on the righteous path, Lauren struggles with hyperempathy, a condition that makes her extraordinarily sensitive to the pain of others.

When fire destroys their compound, Lauren’s family is killed and she is forced out into a world that is fraught with danger. With a handful of other refugees, Lauren must make her way north to safety, along the way conceiving a revolutionary idea that may mean salvation for all mankind.

 

What a powerful view of a dystopian near future! Just like Margaret Atwood, Octavia Butler was able to scan the news of the time (early 1990s) and extrapolate from those stories to produce this tale exploring where North America might be headed. Her version of a United States that has been reduced to third world status is striking for how possible it feels. Although Canada features as a desired destination for the economic refugees, Butler tells us nothing of what is really happening north of the border, content to show us the plight of regular Americans.

The trends that she was working with? Effects of drug use (made me think of our current fentanyl crisis), the growing rich/poor gap, the precarious nature of employment, the willingness to build & fill prisons, the unwillingness to build & repair schools & libraries, the tendency to value the economy over the environment, and climate-driven weather change (and the resulting change in what crops will grow and food price inflation). Butler could foresee this twenty years ago—how much closer are we today to this exact situation? Oh, this makes me think so much of Atwood’s The Handmaid's Tale, where you can really feel like the whole book scenario could easily come true.

Of course this wouldn’t be Octavia Butler if there wasn’t some exploration of the power dynamic between people and groups of people as well. The main character, Lauren, progresses from childhood, governed by her Baptist father, to leader of people migrating north and founding her own religion. We get to see Lauren and her brother Keith struggle with their father’s authority in different ways and the outcome of those struggles. Butler certainly makes the reader see the value of having a community—a chosen circle of people who both give & receive support.

My only complaint might be that it is so United States focused, rather like Stephen King’s The Stand. It could have been even better, in my opinion, had she widened the scope to include other parts of the world, rather like Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven.

This is book number 295 of my Science Fiction and Fantasy Reading Project.

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review 2018-09-16 02:31
The Coldest Girl in Coldtown - Holly Black
The Coldest Girl in Coldtown - Holly Black

  Clever chicks who kick ass and go back to save people and are kind to smaller children...I love Tana. There's plenty of creepy atmosphere, and vampire slaying, and gore for days, but there's no swearing or sex (if that's something you look for) and in its own way it's rather wholesome. Tana and Buffy would get along well together.

 

Library copy

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review 2018-09-13 22:27
WORLDWIRED by ELIZABETH BEAR
Worldwired - Elizabeth Bear

This book took me a long time to read because I checked it out, didn't finish in time, and then came back months later.  I think this was a detriment to the book or actually my feelings about the book.  I really wasn't enjoying it when I came back to finish it.  I hate the love triangle even though everyone gets along.  And Richard was getting a lot irritating.  Not my favorite of the series.

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review 2018-09-06 21:29
The Ask and the Answer / Patrick Ness
The Ask and the Answer - Patrick Ness

We were in the square, in the square where I'd run, holding her, carrying her, telling her to stay alive, stay alive till we got safe, till we got to Haven so I could save her - But there weren't no safety, no safety at all, there was just him and his men...

Fleeing before a relentless army, Todd has carried a desperately wounded Viola right into the hands of their worst enemy, Mayor Prentiss. Immediately separated from Viola and imprisoned, Todd is forced to learn the ways of the Mayor's new order. But what secrets are hiding just outside of town? And where is Viola? Is she even still alive? And who are the mysterious Answer? And then, one day, the bombs begin to explode...

 

 

I read this book for the Doomsday square on my 2018 Halloween Bingo card.

I have become quite partial to Patrick Ness’s writing, having loved A Monster Calls and thoroughly enjoying The Knife of Never Letting Go. The Ask and the Answer is a solid follow-up to TKONLG, showing us more of this non-Earth world where humanity and the aliens that they call The Spackle must find terms of co-existence and human men must learn to deal with the Noise germ, which makes their thoughts visible/audible to everyone around them. As we learn more about the aliens, we realize that they are dependent upon on the Noise to communicate with one another, but it causes major privacy concerns for human men; for some reason, the germ doesn’t affect women.

But privacy of thought is only one concern in this world—the Mayor of Prentisstown, where Todd grew up, is out to become president of the whole world and he doesn’t care what happens to people who get in his way. He recognizes Todd as a person of principles, who may do something wrong but gets back up and tries to set it right or do better. This second installment sees Prentiss try to recruit Todd to his cause, mostly manipulating him through his loyalty to Viola. I think it is also admirable that Todd is able to identify his emotions and admit that he loves Viola and to stand by her. So often, I feel like men and boys are encouraged to refuse to acknowledge their feelings, leaving the women in their lives wondering if they care at all. I guess this is one benefit of the Noise—Viola knows that Todd loves her.

The differences in the way that Noise affects women and men naturally divides them. Prentiss can’t trust women, because he can’t know what’s going on in their heads. As a result, women find themselves separated and confined quite quickly, which naturally makes the women fearful, resentful, and unwilling to go along with his program. But women aren’t going to take the change in government without a struggle—many women go into hiding and provide violent opposition. Then we get to explore the whole who is a freedom fighter and who is a terrorist question. Both sides twist logic to convince their followers.

I think this would be a great book for high school students, showing conflicts in all their grayness, very little black and white. For although I as a reader identified with Todd & Viola, they do regrettable things along the way and those who think they are on the right side are willing to do violence to make their opinions known. There are so many ethical and moral questions explored, it would make for lively discussions.

If you dislike cliff-hanger endings, you should have the next book teed up and ready to go. I’m willing to let things rest for a while at this point and will probably pick up the last book in early 2019. My reading queue is full until then.

 

 

 

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text 2018-09-05 15:17
Reading progress update: I've read 451 out of 553 pages.
The Ask and the Answer - Patrick Ness

 

 

So many themes that are prominent today, featured in a fictional universe where young people could discuss them without all the political baggage of our reality.

 

I think this would be an excellent series for schools.

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